National Assembly

National Assembly members during Coalition Bill debate on December 29, 2021.

| Pool

Uhuru, Raila edge out DP Ruto in day of chaos

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga’s troops flexed their numerical strength to crush a rebellion to a parties’ Bill by Deputy President William Ruto’s allies during a chaotic sitting of the National Assembly.

But proponents of the contentious Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021, often won on numerous amendments by a narrow margin during the stormy proceedings characterised by brawls and the suspension of Minority Leader John Mbadi from the House for five days.

The strategy by the DP’s camp seemed to run down the clock by forcing a physical vote on every contentious issue, apparently to drag proceedings to ensure the Bill was not passed by midnight deadline.

Often, proceedings were halted by heckling, name-calling and scuffles, pointing to how hotly contested the presidential election that has Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga projected as the frontrunners is shaping up.

The pro-Bill camp shot down an attempt to block formation of a coalition party, the major reason for the push to amend the Political Parties Act, 2011. With Jubilee and ODM negotiating and reaching out to other parties, the anticipated game plan is registration of a coalition party thought to be Azimio la Umoja.

Day of chaos in Parliament

The DP has branded the law change as designed to coerce One Kenya Alliance (OKA) leaders into backing Mr Odinga’s coalition, especially given another amendment to compel parties to the coalition party to deposit a pre-election agreement six months to a general election.

Kandara MP Alice Wahome moved the amendment seeking to strike out the clause on the formation of a coalition party, terming it unconstitutional. She said the proposal offends the Constitution as a coalition political party is not constitutionally defined.

“We cannot legislate on what is not provided in the Constitution. Should we proceed with this amendment, this House will legislate in vain,” Ms Wahome said.

However, Justice and Legal Affairs committee chairman Muturi Kigano accused Ms Wahome of attempting to derail the passage of the Bill by pushing an amendment settled in last week’s sitting that was sabotaged by multiple amendments by the DP’s camp.

Majority Leader Amos Kimunya also accused Ms Wahome of misleading the House by claims the clause is unconstitutional.

“I’m not sure which law school Ms Wahome went to. When people expose their ignorance on the floor of the House, we must expose them. The Bill has all the definition of terms in the preceding clause,” Mr Kimunya said.

Ms Wahome’s proposal was defeated by a vote of 158 to 134.

Earlier, former Majority Leader Aden Duale had lost a bid to expunge a clause that provides that an application for provisional registration of a political party be accompanied by a statement on its ideology. Mr Duale said the provision is subject to abuse since it has no definition of ‘doctrine’.

Sloganeering fears

Dr Ruto’s camp believes such a provision would be the basis to deny registration to parties whose sloganeering is unsettling to State agents, such as United Democratic Alliance (UDA) that is accused of fuelling a class war through the ‘hustler’ campaign slogan propagated by the DP.

“The law does not work retrogressively. I’m speaking for numerous Kenyans who in future would like to register a political party. In the absence of a definition of a doctrine, this clause is subject to abuse,” Mr Duale said.

Mr Kimunya and Mr Mbadi opposed Mr Duale’s proposed amendment.  “We are trying to create parties that have certain ideologies and direction. We don’t want to be taken back to the dark days where parties are just sloganeering in the rallies but have no ideology,”  he said.

“Anyone wishing to form a party in this country must have a clear ideology, this is the problem we have been having in this country where we have many briefcase parties that stand for nothing,” added Mr Mbadi.

The amendment was outvoted by acclamation, forcing the DP camp to demand a division—physical count—which replayed in every other contested issue. Those opposed to Mr Duale’s amendment won by 153-134. 

However, the DP’s faction successfully pushed through a proposal by Tigania West MP John Mutunga that sought to allow parties to use their dominant colours after the symbol on the ballot. They won by 123 against 118.

In another blow to the DP, Deputy Speaker Moses Cheboi dropped proposed amendments by MPs Kimani Ichungwa (Kikuyu), Owen Baya (Kilifi North) and John Kiarie (Dagoretti South), saying they were new and required public participation.

The MPs sought to amend the Bill to establish a political parties registration board and the office of the chief executive officer, as well as alter the manner of appointment of the officials.

These new appointees were designed to replace the Registrar of Political Parties who is targeted by the DP’s camp that is furious about proposals in the Bill to grant the office holder sweeping powers over party nominations.

A proposal by Belgut MP Nelson Koech to amend the Bill to change the title from the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill to Political Parties Coalition Bill was also disallowed on a technicality.

The DP’s camp had won the first round of the contest after the deputy speaker allowed MPs to move their amendments despite the committee recommendation that they be ignored after the team walked out of a Tuesday session convened to harmonise multiple amendments.

Flying bottles

The session quickly turned ugly as rival factions fought over the proposed changes to the Bill. Some MPs constantly threw water bottles as they shouted at the Speaker to indefinitely suspend the House sitting. Mr Mutunga and his Suna West counterpart Peter Masara were among those caught on camera throwing water bottles at each other.

At the height of the chaos, Mr Mbadi was suspended for five sittings after exchanging blows with Sigowet Soin MP Kipsengeret Koros. The violence was triggered by Ms Wahome’s amendment seeking to scuttle formation of coalition parties.

While members congregated near temporary Speaker Chris Omulele to vote, a confrontation ensued between the factions.

Mr Mbadi told Mr Kipsengeret to make room for other MPs after voting. But Mr Kipsengeret insisted on voting for a no-show member, despite being told by the clerk that it was not possible.

“He charged at me when I told him to get out after voting and he even bit my finger. What was I supposed to do? I used my pseudo-military tactics to defend myself and in the process he was injured,” Mr Mbadi said. “The rule of natural justice demands that I be given an opportunity to defend myself. My able deputy is still in the chambers. We have numbers despite my absence.”

Jubilee Coalition Joint Parliamentary Group secretary Adan Keynan termed the chaos a fruitless bid by the DP’s allies to block progressive legislation expected to sanitise Kenyan politics.

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